Areas of extreme cold increase further

Children walk to school amid chilly weather in Bhabrongi area of Sadar upazila in Panchagarh on 15 January 2024.Rajiur Rahman

As the sun finally rose in the sky above the capital on Monday, daytime temperature increased by 4 degrees Celsius in Dhaka. Likewise, the temperature rose slightly in the central regions of the country. On the other hand, a mild cold wave started sweeping over Barishal division as temperatures fell by 3 degrees Celsius to 9.5 degrees Celsius in this division on Monday. Sufferings eased slightly in the day, but chilly winds brought shivering cold after sunset.

Dense fog coupled with chilly weather has continued throughout the day for the past five days. Besides, the temperature fell nearly to the level of a cold wave in most parts of the Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions on Monday. Dense fog also disrupted flight operations in Syedpur, Rajshahi and Sylhet airports, as well as ferry movement. People, especially children, are also increasingly being hospitalised with cold-related diseases.

Meteorologists said fog contributes to the increase in areas with biting cold. Once shivering cold weather swept over Sylhet and northern regions while temperatures were relativity higher in coastal areas. Since evaporation was higher near the sea, dry wind from the Himalayas does not reached southern region from northern regions. However, shivering cold weather has swept from northern regions to central, southern and southwest regions over the past week due to fog, meteorologists said.

Asked on the rise of the areas with biting cold, former director of Bangladesh Meteorology Department and climate researcher Samrendo Karmakar told Prothom Alo usually winter arrives in Bangladesh when chilly wind from the Himalayas starts blowing over Panchagarh district. Likewise, cold wind enters Sylhet from Meghalaya, decreasing temperature.

He said the country has seen a rise in fog and fall in temperature in January since 1998. Fog is reducing difference between day and night temperatures in South Asia in most of January. As a result, biting cold is felt despite no cold wave sweeps over the country.

Samrendo Karmakar said shivering cold is felt in over half areas of the country in January, which mostly occurred in northern and Sylhet regions. As a result, sufferings to general people increases, he added.

Chilly weather is felt in two-third area of the country. As a result, it is necessary to take preparation in the areas of agriculture and public health to face such winter
Azizur Rahman, director, Bangladesh Meteorological Department

‘I did not receive a single blanket’

Visiting several places in Barishal city including Liberation War Park, Steamer Jetty, City Market and river port area, people were seen sitting around fires in open spaces and by the roadsides in a bid to warm themselves in the extreme cold. Floating and homeless people took shelter on the floors of the jetty at the river port.

Sixty-five-year-old Ghani Mia and his wife Jahanara Begum from Chandramohon of Sadar upazila, Barishal, took shelter at the river jetty after losing their home to river erosion. Ghani Mia said, “Chilly weather is causing immense sufferings. I did not receive a single blanket. A torn and thin khanta does not protect us from cold. We cannot sleep at night.”

Amena Begum is daily wage earner. She was working in char of Hayatkhali village in Koyra upazila, Khulna near the Sundarbans. She said, “We feel the cold in our body, not it does not fill in our stomachs.” Another wage earner Sabina Khatun was standing next to Amena Begum. Sabina Khatun said, “If we do not work for a day, it becomes difficult for us to have a meal. Whether we eat or not, we must arrange food for our children. Our body can bear the sufferings of cold, but not our stomachs.”

Visiting the Nilphamari 250 Bed General Hospital on Monday afternoon, more patients with cold-related illness were seen at various wards. There were more patients than the number of beds at children ward. Mothers were busy in nebulising children.

Meanwhile, late blight fungus has attacked potato fields in various places in Naogaon due to acute cold and dense fog. This fungus kills the potato plants. Fungus also attacks boro paddy seedbed in the area.

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Meteorologists are worried

Meteorologists and climate experts are concerned over the rise in chilly weather across the country in January. They think this trend indicate changes in weather pattern. A blanket of heavy fog has crossed Pakistan and India from the beginning of January to Monday, 15 January, and then engulfed Bangladesh. Besides, low clouds are forming in various places of the country, and dust from wind and smoke is increasing. As a result, unusual fog is forming and that reduces temperature.

Meteorologists said sunlight reaching the ground due to dense fog, increasing the sufferings from cold weather. On the other hand, low clouds hamper visibility, disrupting movement of vehicles, vessels and aircraft. Diffused sunlight is also causing the rise in number patients with cold-related disease at various hospitals in the country, as well as hampering winter paddy and vegetable production.

No cold wave in Dhaka, but low temperature

The average temperature of Dhaka was 12-13 degrees Celsius in mid-December over the past 33 years, but temperature never dropped below 15 degree Celsius over the past eight years except 8 January 208 when temperature fell to 9.4 degrees Celsius.

The average lowest temperature was 16 degrees Celsius in December last year, which dropped to 15 degrees Celsius in the first half of January. Day and night temperatures varied by 4-6 degrees Celsius over the first week, bringing daily life to a standstill in Dhaka.

Cold wave swept over Dhaka once over the past eight years. Though no cold wave hit the capital in this winter, city dwellers felt the chilly weather due to difference in day-night temperature.

Preparedness necessary

Bangladesh Meteorological Department director Azizur Rahman told Prothom Alo on Monday that chilly weather sweeps over which area more cannot be explained by cold wave anymore. Because if day and night temperature falls, chilly weather is felt more than cold wave. Currently, cold wave sweeps over 4-5 districts, but chilly weather is felt in two-third area of the country. As a result, it is necessary to take preparation in the areas of agriculture and public health to face such winter, he added.

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(Prothom Alo’s Staff Correspondent from Barishal, Correspondents from Nilphamari, Naogaon and Koyra (Khulna) contributed to this report.)

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna.